14 of 18 people found the following review helpful
- Published on Amazon.com
Opening shot's a doozy: a dishevelled teenager, sultry and pouting: bee-sting lips. She stands on a cold beach, in her jeans. The shot tightens, zooms in like a spaceship approaching a new planet. Features on the landscape expand, atomise, freckles fractalise and whoa! We're getting too close captain! We cannae escape her gravitational field! We're going in!
We linger hopefully on the event horizon of a teenaged kiss, but the camera jumps into hyperspace and pops out laterally, rotating back, to give a full account of that kiss - it's the real deal: tongues waggling, jaws working, string of backlit spit glistening like morning dew kind of thing - between young girl and a spotty teenaged boy.
They're at an illicit beach party. The girl lights a firework and drops it in a drum. The drum machineguns and billows smoke. Officer Dibble comes running, tout le monde vamoose, but our sultry kisser stands stock still and has her collar felt. Subtext: she's a loose cannon. Given the actual fireworks, it barely even counts as a subtext, come to think of it.
In this way do we meet Emelia Conan Doyle (Jessica Brown Findlay). Yes, you read that right: Conan Doyle.
Emelia has secured a part-time job at Cliff House, a bed and breakfast occupied by a once-successful writer, run by his once-successful wife, and staffed by their yet-to-be-successful daughter. Emelia quickly digs herself in to the family. Daddy turns his head. So does daughter. Loose cannon starts going off.
And thence, much of the film preoccupies itself, literally and metaphorically, with subtexts. Like the firework in the drum, many are barely submerged. Daddy and Emelia (supposedly trying to emulate her famous forebear) spend much time talking about "subtext".
This is Tamzin Rafn's first realised screenplay. It is Brown Findlay's first film. Both bring to the picture a sheen of freshness and honesty that a longer tooth would have bitten through. There's a pleasant air of naivety. The picture needs this to work, and it gets it.
Brown-Findlay, in particular, is a find: she has the natural energy, charisma and beauty to fill the screen, and she's sex on a stick. That isn't to say she's a perfect actress. Her delivery is sometimes excellent, but often forced. But then, so are her lines. Her character isn't entirely coherent: Super cool one minute; achingly vulnerable the next. Give Rafn the benefit of the doubt: put that down to realistic depiction of spinny teenaged hormones.
There's spinny, though, and there's preposterous: Sometimes plausibility loses out to a better punch line: Emelia first encounters the writer Jonathan (Sebastian Koch) when she walks in on him privately enjoying some online cinema one-handed (if you catch my drift). That, you would think, would nix any relationship between a savvy seventeen year old and a forty-seven year old loser: that it doesn't risks undermining the very premise of the film. It transpires the scene is required simply as the set up for (an admittedly very funny) joke later on.
The experienced cast around Brown Findlay is excellent, and admirably gives her time and space for her untutored charisma to flood the screen. Koch (well known from the excellent Lives of Others) is understated and horribly plausible as a mid-crisis emasculated middle-aged man. Felicity Jones' Beth is a studied and well observed performance. Julia Ormond chews a little bit of scenery, as her part requires, but doesn't get in the way, and provides well placed comic relief and the occasional plot nudge.
The photography is also nicely done. There are a number of set pieces which are beautifully framed, and Southern England is captured in a fairly unrecognisable golden light.
I enjoyed Albatross. It was a quiet pleasure. I don't think it will bust any box office records, but you can see it being the beginning of a notable career or two. Brown Findlay will only get better with experience. So, I dare say, will Rafn.